Monday, February 4, 2008
7 News Investigations: Backyard Danger
Kids can spend hours on a backyard swing set, and most parents assume they are safe, but some say one particular design has led to dozens of injuries. Seven's Robbin Simmons has more on this Backyard Danger.
WSVN -- Squeals of joy, hours of laughter, flying high and playing hard. The backyard swing set is the ultimate place for kids to have fun. Who would imagine that playtime could end in tragedy?
Reed Cowan: "My child died of hanging from a swing set in a backyard. The most freak accident you could ever imagine."
Seven's News anchor Reed Cowan lost his 4-year-old son Wesley after an accident on his swing set.
Reed Cowan: "He was going across those monkey bars, and, as he did so, he fell into the corner of the trapeze bar, and he was gone in an instant."
Mother, unidentified: "When she fell she landed straddling the swing."
This mother, who doesn't want to be identified, says her daughter suffered a traumatic injury on a swing set.
Mother, unidentified: "She had a, what's known as, a female straddle injury. It's really harsh, it's almost like a female circumcision. It took them three hours, two surgeons to repair the damage."
Like Wesley, her daughter fell from the monkey bars onto a swing.
Mother, unidentified: "I saw her standing on the top rung of the swing set with her hands on the monkey bars, on the top monkey bar, and I screamed, 'No!' and I turned around to run out the back door to stop her, and by then she had already fallen."
And there have been other accidents. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports dozens of children have suffered serious injuries while playing on swing sets with one certain design.
Leonard Lusenko: "This design does not protect children. This design maims and injures children."
Safety expert Leonard Lusenko says the dangerous swing sets feature overhead monkey bars with swings, sliders and trapeze bars attached on one side.
Scott Burton: "When children go across the overhead ladders, which is commonly called mokey bars, and they lose their grip, and they fall onto the swings or swinging component."
Burton says the injuries speak for themselves.
In 1991, a 2-year-old Wisconsin boy suffered head lacerations when he fell and hit a swing. In New York, a 5-year old girl had to have surgery when she fell and tangled her leg in a chain, and in Pennsylvania a 5-year-old boy fell into a swing chain and lacerated his scrotum, and there's more.
Accidents have occurred in more than 25 states.
Scott Burton: "That's just the tip of the iceberg."
Experts believe the swing set design is flawed.
Dr. Leonard Lucenko: "These are needless, needless and really preventable injuries, and children should not be exposed to them. Children should be protected."
Yet parents like Lynn Hazouri have never even heard about the potential danger.
Lynn Hazouri: "It combined the swings and the monkey bars, so we intentionally bought it for that reason and now to find out that may be what makes it dangerous, I'm not exactly sure what to do."
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued no warnings and no recalls. Seven News spoke to the CPSC, and they would only tell us they are aware of the injuries.
Nychelle Fleming: "The commission is aware of one death associated with the overhead fall, and we are now looking at that particular report and doing an investigation on it."
The CPSC takes advice on swingset safety from ASTM, an organization charged with making sure the designs are safe.
Nychelle Fleming: "I just think it's a tragedy for any child, for any child to be injured unnecessarily."
In an emotional and often heated meeting this week, safety experts and swing set manufacturers went head to head over the design.
Dr Carl Abraham: "They are intentionally and blatantly ignoring the safety and welfare of the children just because that product continually sells without notice to the consumer."
Robbin Simmons: "Several manufacturers have said in recent weeks that they will start to phase out what they admit is a dangerous design, but even though the design might be phased out, there are still thousands of these swing sets in backyards across the country, but, until there is a recall, parents of injured children feel a need to warn other parents."
Mother, unidentified: "If I'm driving down the road, and I do see a swing set in somebody's backyard, I will stop the car and go up and knock on the backdoor and tell them what happened to my daughter and that they need to take it down."
And she's outraged nothing was done after her daughter's injury because it might have saved Wesley's life.
Mother, unidentified: "All of you that heard my voice when I called out for help, if you would have listened, that boy would have been alive right now, so look down at your hands 'cause that boy's blood is on them."
And she hopes someone will act before another child is hurt.
Craig Stevens: "The ASTM sub-committee voted Tuesday to ban the swing set design. It now goes to the full committee for a vote. If it's passed, a new safety standard will be published. We asked CPSC if they would issue a safety alert in the meantime, but they would not comment."